We recently partnered with our friends over at Restless & Roving to live vicariously through their beautifully chronicled travels. Shane and Anna have been living in Austin for the past few years, working in commercial production and marketing for an ethical e-commerce platform (EcoHabitude), but recently made the decision to embark on an indefinite trip around the world. Their trip started over on the East Coast, where they found themselves on a remote island off the coast of Maine.
Map Artwork: Karine Sarkissian
Picture an idyllic Maine town and what comes to mind probably looks a lot like Monhegan. A small harbor with lobster boats moored on the blue water, and shingled cottages dotting the shore, Monhegan looks more like a painting than a real place - a seaside summer paradise pulled from a canvas. It lies on a tiny island more than 10 miles off the coast of Maine and is only accessible by boat. Despite its small size and remote location, Monhegan has fostered a vibrant artistic community. There are multiple hotels, restaurants, galleries, and shops in the little village and during the summer the ferries are filled with tourists coming from the mainland. Visitors spend their days hiking, gallery-hopping, and eating lobster rolls on the beach. Any amount of time spent on Monhegan is worth the trip, but if you have the opportunity, do yourself a favor and stay a few days. In the evenings, when the daytrippers have left and the island is quiet, you will have the trails and beaches all to yourself and the worries of the mainland will feel very far away indeed.
One of the first buildings you see when you sail into the harbor, The Island Inn is a beautiful, old, three-story structure overlooking the water. Choose from a variety of simple but comfortable rooms, some with ensuite bathrooms, some with a shared bath in the hall. At almost $300/night for a Queen with ensuite bathroom, the price might seem high for the relatively spartan surroundings, but remember that what you are really paying for is the location and experience. Once you are settled in a porch rocking chair, nursing a beer and watching sunset over the harbor, the price tag won’t seem so steep.
If you are looking for slightly more affordable options, both The Monhegan House and The Trailing Yew offer a similar experience to The Island Inn, just without the prime harbor-view location. All three hotels have dining rooms and offer free breakfast with your room or dinner for an added price.
For larger groups and families, there are a wide selection of houses, cottages, and cabins available for rent around the island.
If you aren’t partaking in the free breakfast at your hotel, head to The Barnacle or The Black Duck Emporium to grab a pastry and a coffee. Both brew a tasty cappuccino although The Barnacle’s patio right on the water is hard to pass up.
For lunch you can sate all of your seafood cravings at the Fish House Fish Market. Located at aptly named Fish Beach, the market offers all the Downeast classics including haddock, lobster rolls, chowder, and oysters. There is no interior seating but the picnic tables on the beach are even better, assuming you can fight off the other hungry patrons to claim a seat. If you are all lobster-ed out, The Novelty behind Monhegan House is a popular spot for made-to-order pizza and generously scooped ice cream cones.
At dinnertime most visitors head to one of the hotel dining rooms for a more upscale meal. Both The Island Inn and Monhegan House offer full dinner menus with a locally- sourced, seafood focus. You can fill up on gourmet dishes like Lobster Gnocchi, Grilled Atlantic Salmon, or Snapper Ceviche. The Trailing Yew has a set dinner menu that changes weekly.
Guaranteed to be one of the more remote breweries you ever visit, Monhegan Brewing Company is the place to be during happy hour. To get there, follow the hand painted signs and walk five minutes south of town, past all of the ridiculously picturesque cottages. The brewery houses a small tap room and an outdoor seating area enclosed by a wall of old lobster traps. They offer four rotating beers on tap. Sample a flight or down a few pints and once you find a favorite, get a growler to bring home. You can also buy beer and wine at The Barnacle, The Novelty, or L. Bracket & Son Grocery store, but you can’t drink it on the premises. Luckily, Monhegan does not have any open container laws, so you can toss back your drink pretty much anywhere else. Sitting on the pier at dusk is probably a better way to enjoy that bottle of wine anyway!
For all of you active folks, Monhegan’s extensive network of hiking trails is the way to go. The whole east side of the island is undeveloped and 12 miles of trails criss-cross around it. Grab a trail map at the ferry terminal and choose your own adventure. In general, the trails hugging the coastline are more strenuous, while the interior trails are flatter and easier. If you are only on Monhegan for a few hours or don’t want to work too hard for a scenic payoff, take the most popular trail straight past the lighthouse which leads to a high cliff overlooking the open ocean.
After your hike, cool off in the chilly Atlantic waters at one of the village beaches. Swim Beach is beautiful, and is the safest option according to the Monhegan official website. If you are feeling brave you can also head over to the ferry dock to join the local kids in jumping off the edge. It might not be too scary at high tide but at dead low it becomes a 20ft drop.
If the weather is not cooperating or if you are just feeling a little less active, there are plenty of indoor options to keep you occupied. The Monhegan Museum of Art & History is at the top of the village in the old lighthouse. It displays historical items from the area and provides information on the history and ecology of Monhegan. There is also a separate building that houses a rotating art exhibition. The Lupine Gallery is another good place to visit if you are an artist or art lover. The two-story building features paintings, prints, photographs, and drawings from a number of local Maine artists, as well as a selection of art supplies to purchase. Right next to The Lupine, Elvas Old P.O and Winter Works, are where to go to buy all your post cards and souvenirs for jealous friends back home.
You can take a ferry from three different places on the mainland. All three boats are passenger ferrys only, so no cars. Monhegan Boat Line leaves a few times a day from Port Clyde; the trip takes 50-70 minutes and costs $38 round trip. Balmy Day Cruises offers one trip a day from Bootbay Harbor; the ride lasts 90 minutes and cost $40 roundtrip. Hardy Boat has 2 trips a day from New Harbor; takes 50 minutes and cost $38 round trip.